Now. The best way to deal with ill-fitting shoes is never to buy them to begin with. But there are many reasons why they might sneak into our wardrobes: They feel fine at the store, they feel fine for the first few wearings, they change shape slightly after the first few wearings, our feet swell, they were gifts, they were shot-in-the-dark eBay purchases. (That last one applies to my Faryl Robin Suzus, pictured above.) So, should you find yourself with a pinchy, wobbly, or otherwise ill-fitting pair, here are some of the most common solutions:
Stretch them: I learned from Audi that most shoes that feel a bit too snug can be stretched. I own the same kit of tools that she recommends – the Foot Fitter Pro and stretching spray – and have had some success adjusting my own shoes. I’d say the best thing about this method is that many shoe stretching kits, including the Foot Fitter Pro, include attachments that allow you to stretch shoes to accommodate sore spots, bunions, and corns.
Have them stretched: If you’d rather leave it to the pros due to delicacy, impatience, or just wanting the job done right, you can take your shoes to the cobbler for stretching. It’ll set you back $10 to $15 per pair, and generally takes about a week. I’ve also had some success with this method, though I’ll admit that neither struck me as 100% effective.
Reserve for winter wear: This will only work for shoes that are just a hair too tight. Most folks experience some foot swelling during the warm summer months. Your feet won’t shrink a half-size come winter, but they’ll be a bit smaller. Some shoes may slip on easier during cool weather.
Insoles: Oh, there’s a whole world of inserts out there, my friends. My dad and several buddies swear by Superfeet Insoles which are ghastly expensive but top-of-the line for comfort. Naturally, the best plan is to spring for one pair or insoles and swap them in and out of several pairs of shoes. I’m perfectly happy with the cheapo versions in most cases, since I don’t get a lot of foot pain in addition to fit issues. Dr. Scholl’s Air Pillos are my go-tos, though I spring for the slightly more expensive gel Open Shoe Insoles when I need to. They will make the toebox of most pumps feel a bit snug, but also decrease slippage and make loose shoes fit better overall. Inserts work best if a shoe is big everywhere.
Ball of foot pads: I’ve found these to be incredibly helpful in heels that are just slightly too big, but that pinch uncomfortably when an insole is added. I’ve found Foot Petals Tip/Toes Cushions to be the best. They keep my feet from sliding down into the toe box, which then keeps my heel in place.
Heel grips: Honestly? These have never, ever worked for me. I’m including them here because they’ve been manufactured for so long they MUST work wonders for some folks. I’ve used the Kiwi versions, and they do make loose shoes tighter … but they also create blisters within an hour of insertion.
Moleskin: Those moles. They must be really fun to rub if we’ve named a fabric, a set of journals, AND a type of foot-pain shield for their skins. This particular kind of moleskin is basically felt with an adhesive back. Once you’ve determined where you’re gonna get pinched, you cut it to size, slap it onto your foot, and slide that foot back into its shoe. The moleskin protects your foot from pinching, and since it adds some bulk to that area of your foot it also helps stretch the shoe to fit.
Stretch them: As I mentioned above, the home stretching kits include attachments for custom fitting. If a certain pair pinches in a certain spot, you can target and stretch!
Blister block: This is just about the only solution I know of for shoes that rub, and I haven’t found it to be foolproof. Blister block is a stick of slippery stuff that you rub on your feet to ease up on the friction created by rubby/slippy shoes. It’s easy to apply and does help in some situations, but I’ve been loathe to use it when wearing fabric, suede, or delicate shoes even though it claims to be safe. Also, amusingly, it shares its main ingredients with shortening. Hah.
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